The Back Row Caucus
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes do all their deeds to be seen by others.They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues,and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces … [but] all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. – Matthew 23:1-12, abridged (NRSV)
My friend is a representative to her state legislature. She flipped her district in the “blue wave” of 2018. Her chief qualification to be a lawmaker is that she previously ran a church camp for a dozen years. The girl knows how to herd cats, handle conflict, cast a vision, and sing while doing it all. She’s the one wearing the blue feather boa in the group photo of the legislative chamber.
In her first term, she regaled us with stories about playing cards in the cafeteria with the other Democrats while the Republicans gave grandstanding speeches on the house floor. Then they’d file back in and vote their consciences.
My friend kept voting her conscience, even when it caused her to go against her party’s leadership. In the next legislative session, she was punished by getting demoted to a seat at the back of the room—next to the Republicans.
She ended up befriending them. She told them about why she was voting the way she was on critical justice issues and judicial appointments. And she began flipping them, too. In what used to be a hostile, polarized political environment, new relationships are forming. Hearts and minds are being opened.
Being moved to the back of the room is not always a punishment. It might be just the place God needs you.
God, mess with my perceptions of who the enemy is. May I find friends in low places. And give me courage to do my homework and vote my conscience, even if it means challenging the status quo. Amen.
Rev. Molly Baskette is the lead pastor of First Church Berkeley UCC and the author of a number of books about church renewal, parenting, spiritual growth and more. For her author newsletter and book information, visit mollybaskette.com.